Diplomatic Circles
The New Republic / Abbas Milani

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was back in New York this week, making his fifth annual pilgrimage to the UN General Assembly. In the past, Ahmadinejad's carefully calibrated theatrics before or during his trips--comparable only to his new soul-mate Hugo Chavez, or the equally delusional, self-declared messiah, Moammar Qaddafi--focused all attention on the regime's nuclear adventurism, or his own shameless denial of the Holocaust and repeated demands for Israel's "oblivion from the map." His glib sound bites were broadcast with astonishing repetition. Journalists, with occasional exceptions, eschewed more probing questions about the failing economy in Iran and the plight of political prisoners and minorities.This "rock star" attention fed--indeed, increased--his narcissist appetite for the gaze of the camera. His own fabricated stories about the trip--that Allah provided a protective cocoon while he spoke at the UN, or that American children screamed words of support in New York streets--were craftily propagated upon his return, to be consumed and delighted at home and in the Muslim street. For example, after his appearance at Columbia University in 2007, official and semi-official Iranians papers hailed his "heroic" and "civilized" behavior in face of an "ill-mannered president;" even reformist offered praise.  

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